So long Romy Reyes: singer, peacemaker

Romy Reyes and wife Leah. Photo from Romy’s FB wall

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 04 February) – In a snap, terrorism took away the life of a steadfast peacemaker, Romulo Reyes, fondly called Romy, who, through music, promoted a culture of peace in Mindanao.

Reyes, 58, and his wife Leah were among the civilian fatalities during the January 27’s lethal twin explosions at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu that killed 22 persons and wounded over 100 others.

He was the composer and voice behind “Justice, Equality, Security & Harmony (As means of peace in Mindanao),” which has lyrics that goes:

“Muslims and Christians work hand in hand.

Making this land a great place to live in

Justice , Equality, Security and Harmony

As means of peace in Mindanao.”

More than two decades ago, he also composed “Children for Peace,” which was sung by his daughter Aubrey.

Artists and peace advocates had written that song’s title in the walls of Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along White Plains in Quezon City, to instill the message of peace in the minds of troops.

The opening lines of the song go this way:

“I have dreamed that one day

The world did come as one

People helping one another

Working hand in hand

What a beautiful sight

Right before my eyes

Children playing together

Underneath the sun

We are the children for peace

Listen to our pleas

Give us a chance to grow

In God’s name we want you to know.”

Lawyer Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy (IAG) and Governance based in this city, described Reyes as a “very committed peace advocate.”

“He devoted his life in pursuit of peace through songs,” Bacani said in an interview.

Bacani said that IAG and the Notre Dame of Cotabato Peace Center here had collaborated with Reyes in the production of songs that promote or seek peace in Mindanao.

“Ironically, this guy’s work for peace, almost the whole of his life, was ended by a violent act,” Bacani said.

Reyes and his wife were regular churchgoers at the bombed out Jolo cathedral.

Octavio Dinampo, a peace advocate who teaches at the Mindanao State University in Jolo, said Reyes was a friend whom they often hired as trainor for the singing competition during their MSU-Sulu foundation day.

Dinampo said the Reyes couple married late and have two children.

Reyes had taught arts and music at the Notre Dame of Jolo College.

Dinampo described him as a doting father who brought and fetched his children at school when they were young on an old Honda motorcycle.

“He has many friends and no known enemy here,” Dinampo said.

Fr. Charlie Inzon, provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which has been doing apostolic works in Sulu for a long time, said the congregation is grieving the deaths of those killed in the twin bomb attacks.

“Indeed, they have died as martyrs witnessing to their Christian faith as they braved to stay in Jolo despite constant intimidation and risks,” Inzon said in a statement.

Misra Aina Anzar, or DJ Mix at 99.3 FM Your Bosom Buddy in Jolo, said that Reyes has been building better relations with the town’s Islamic community by going to their villages.

“He’s not scared to go to Muslim villages. He made friends with the followers of Islam by reaching out to them in their houses,” Anzar said in a phone interview.

Reyes and his wife are devoted Catholics who love each other deeply that they were seen holding hands before the blast killed them, said Anzar, recalling accounts of witnesses.

She described Reyes as a straightforward person who loves to give compliments to other regardless of religion.

“Sir Romy was one of the people who pushed and helped me reach my dreams, made me realize not to waste my talents and skills and told me to use them for the greater good,” Anzar wrote on her Facebook wall. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)